By Maayan Lubell
JERUSALEM, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Signs reading “S.O.S.” and “help, three hostages” in Hebrew were found on the walls of a Gaza building where three Israeli hostages had been hiding before they were mistakenly killed, Israel’s military said on Sunday.
The military distributed photographs of the white cloth signs written in red, likely with leftover food. They were hung on a building about 200 meters from where the hostages were shot, military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said.
The Israeli military on Friday identified the three hostages killed in Shejaiya, an eastern suburb of Gaza City, as Yotam Haim and Alon Shamriz, abducted from Kibbutz Kfar Aza, and Samer Al-Talalka, abducted from nearby Kibbutz Nir Am.
It said they had raised a white flag and were shirtless when shot, against Israel’s rules of engagement. Israel’s military chief told troops inside Gaza not to repeat that mistake.
The Israeli military is investigating the deaths.
“What if it is two Gazans with a white flag coming out to surrender, do we shoot them? Absolutely not,” said Chief of the General Staff Major-General Herzi Halevi. “Even those who are fighting us, if they lay down their arms and raise their hands, we arrest them, we don’t shoot them,” he added.
As Shamriz was laid to rest on Sunday, his mother Dikla stood over his flag-draped coffin.
“My child, you were strong, determined, smart. You were a hero. You survived 70 days in hell. I know you felt us all the time, the way we felt you. Another moment and you would have been in my arms,” she said, as many family and friends wept.
More than 100 Israeli hostages remain in Gaza, held incommunicado despite Israeli calls for Red Cross access.
In a deal struck in late November, more than 100 women, children, teens and foreigners were released. Other hostages have been declared dead by Israeli authorities.
Hamas militants rampaged through Israeli towns on Oct. 7., killing 1,200 people and capturing 240 hostages. Israel then launched a counter-attack, during which Gaza health authorities say close to 19,000 people have been killed. (Additional reporting by Aleksandra Michalska in Shefayim; Editing by Alexander Smith)